Friday, January 30, 2009

Homicide - Hussey: Dangerous Dan Murray

I'm pleased to share another story from Detective Hussey's files. Enjoy!

Dan Murray was a cop's cop. He stood 6'8" tall and weighed about 240lbs. He had sandy brown hair and steely light blue eyes. He wore tight tailored uniforms and almost always smoked a pipe. He was handy with the ladies, and normally gave the impression of being easygoing. Most of the time he was. But when provoked, his personality changed dramatically, and he became a formidable enemy.

Dan had been a motor officer with the Daytona Beach Police Department, and when you could coax it out of him, he would tell stories of beach babes and car races and spring breaks. We all wondered why he would leave a paradise like that for this place.

I never worked with Dan, but did have the opportunity to meet him after he left the Lakeland Police Department to manage the "Big Leader" sporting goods store on Lake Parker Avenue. The meeting was somewhat official.

I had stopped at the Marine Corps recruiting office to visit one of the Gunnery Sergeants who rode with us on the weekends. I was drinking a coke and staring out the front window of the office. A sidewalk stretched across in front of the building, and the glass had one way, mirrored window tint so people walking by could not see inside, but those inside could see out. Just then, a short guy walked past the window, at a brisk pace. As soon as he entered my field of view, a tall white male with a beard ran up to him from behind, put a hand on his shoulder, spinning the shorter man around, and punched him squarely in the face.

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The smaller man fell on his back, sprawled on the sidewalk. I ran out the door and grabbed the taller man, who I realized was at least six inches taller than myself. I had my night stick out and told the man to turn around and put his hands on my car. He was compliant, but kept saying, "Don't hit me with that stick."

The smaller guy was getting up and I asked him if he was all right.

"No, I'm not, and I want this nut in jail!"

"He's screwin' my sixteen year old daughter and he's 23," the taller man said.

"That so?" I asked.

The short guy didn't answer.

"Let's see some ID," I said to the tall man.

He removed his wallet and produced a Florida Driver's License. In the DL picture, he was clean-shaven and wore a police uniform, like my own. I saw the name. "Wow," I said. "Dan Murray. You're a legend."

"Well, not really, and don't hit me with that stick," he said.

"Sorry," I said, feeling at ease, and replacing the stick to the ring.

"How about you?" I said to the shorter one. He had apparently considered the impending possibilities of being arrested for offenses against minors.

"Look, I'm okay, just let's forget about this and I won't call his daughter anymore," the short guy said.

"You better not, or next time I won't be so nice," Dan said. The short guy rubbed his chin and looked nervously from me to Dan.

When the little guy had gone, Dan stuck out his hand and said, "Nice to meet ya', come by the store some time." I did, and we became good friends.

I met the other major player in this story one midnight shift, working the Northwest Area, Zone 1, with my partner, Tom. This was the area where all the violence happened. Tom and I were two of a kind, rookies green as grass, with a lot of natural police ability. Tom had an advantage in that his dad, Harry, was a sergeant with the department.

We had a genuine desire to have the most fun possible on a shift. That meant getting into the hottest calls, and digging up our own bad guys. We would regularly volunteer for the Zone 1 assignment and the veterans were happy not to have to work the area. They said the just didn't have the patience. Boy, can I relate to that now.

As we patrolled our zone, we noticed a young black man walking along the sidewalk. He looked hinky, and I looked at Tom and nodded. Hinky was a term used in those days, meaning you just had a hunch that the guy was up to no good. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has said that "hinky" and "hunch" are no longer probable cause for a stop.

As I pulled the police cruiser to the curb, the man put both hands in the air, approached the police car, and without being told to do so, assumed "the position." I got out of the car and asked him what the hell he was doing.

"I don't wanna' get shot again," he said.

"Who shot you?" I asked?

"Mr. Murray shot me," he said, his voice rising and trailing off. "I done my time."

I immediately knew who this man was. Jimmy Lundeen, who had recently been released from prison. I had heard the story about the burglary at Polly Prim Cleaners, and listened to the tape many times.

Jimmy had been a small-time burglar in his younger years. He started at age 16 doing residential burglaries, and graduated to businesses. Most businesses had petty cash and items that could be easily disposed of—fenced—on the street. Jimmy's career as a burglar was going well. He and his partner had hit two other businesses early in the week and had come away with over three hundred dollars. Not bad money for a couple hours of work.

It was Saturday night. Usually Jimmy and his partner would have been drinking and making trips to a local grocery store for pork rinds or boiled peanuts, stopping off in the back to play craps or poker with some of the locals.

Tonight they didn't have quite enough money for the big time they had planned for the weekend, and Jimmy had been casing a cleaners in town, where his cousin worked. She told Jimmy that the money from the store on Saturday would be wrapped in a towel and stuck up under the counter.

The store had a drop safe, but the owner had long since lost the combination, and the safe had not been used in years. Jimmy also knew that the store had some kind of an alarm system, but the local police were usually slow to respond to alarm calls, and on a Saturday night they would have their hands full working car wrecks and breaking up fights at the local bars. While this was all true, Jimmy just didn't factor in "Dangerous Dan," or Sonitrol.

Fate plays a heavy role in police work. After a call, you can always hear a cop say, "Man if everything hadn't been just right, that never would have happened." Dan Murray would have been off this Saturday night too. He had taken an off-duty job helping out at a minor league baseball game.

Dan left the game after the last car had gone from the parking lot and headed his Harley toward the police station. The radio blasted the familiar tone alert, indicating a priority call.

Attention all units, Sonitrol hears glass breaking and voices at Polly Prim Cleaners, 601 Lake Mirror Drive.

Sonitrol was relatively new in the area, but so far they had been right on the money. Nearly every time a Sonitrol alarm was issued, an arrest had taken place. Most businesses serviced by Sonitrol were equipped with listening devices and tape recording equipment. Dan Murray knew this too, and he couldn't resist getting into something, even on his night off. Dan downshifted his big motorcycle and headed toward the area.

The tape recording from the Dan Murray Sonitrol call at Polly Prim cleaners was legendary. It had been played for every rookie policeman for years, even after Dan left the department. It went something like this:

The tape starts with glass breaking and the whispering and hushed voices of two males. The voices continue as does the sound of furniture and papers being moved as the two burglars rifled through drawers and cabinets. Then far off in the background, you hear the wail of a police siren, followed closely by the unmistakable "wop-wop" sound of a 1200 Harley Davidson motorcycle. The voices of the two burglars become frantic and one can be heard saying, "Oh shit, it da police."

Then there's more scrambling, and shortly after the last of the scrambling, the voice of patrolman Dan Murray can be heard clearly, yelling, "Police. Freeze, mother-fucker."

The voice of Jimmy Lundeen can be then heard clearly saying, "Go ahead, shoot me ma-fucka, I ain't got no gun."

This is followed almost immediately by the loud report of a firearm, and several seconds of silence. It is at this point when people who had never heard the tape before and didn't know Dan Murray would ask, "Who got shot?"

The listener wouldn't have long to wait. Jimmy's voice was heard again, but this time it was an agonizing moan and the exclamation, "I been shot," displacing any question as to who was the shooter and who was the shootee.

The moaning and screaming continued as Dan asked the second burglar, Jimmy's partner, "How about you mother-fucker, you want summa' this?"

"No suh boss, dat man got jis' what he aks fo'," the partner replied.

Jimmy and his partner got ten years in prison and were released early for good behavior, which is when I ran into him. Although Jimmy wasn't fond of being shot, he forever credited Officer Murray for turning his life around. He never got into trouble with the law again.

Officer Murray got a division commendation, became even more of a legend than he had been before, and left the department to pursue a career in retail sales managing a sporting goods store.

The tape of the incident was played for years after. The original copy of the tape however, was accidentally erased by Sonitrol personnel, prior to the trial. Imagine that.

Have a nice weekend, everyone. See you Monday.


Anonymous said...

Another great entry; thanks for sharing this tale.

Terry Odell said...

Again, my pleasure. These are fun to post.

Liane Gentry Skye said...

I am loving these posts. Thank you!

Ray said...

What a tape. I would love to hear it.


Anonymous said...

It's great to start the day with a little levity. I'm really enjoying your posts.